Training a New Generation of Development Practitioners: An Impact Story

A young woman named Afnan lives in Amman, Jordan. She is 22-years-old, deaf and with limited verbal skills. She is likely part of the Palestinian refugee community in Eastern Amman and has never before worked outside of her home. Two months ago, she was welcomed into the Al-Karma Center, run for the last 17 years by the Jordan River Foundation. At the Al-Karma Center, Afnan learned how to use a sewing machine and was taught the specific skill of sewing the tracing lines for detailed embroidery projects, freehand. Her supervisors say she is a perfectionist and in this short time has become an expert at this work. She’s paid per piece produced; in her first month she earned JD $66 (about US$93) and in her second month this nearly doubled to JD $117 (US$166). Using gestures and some writing, she proudly describes her own achievements, and how she shared the money with her father and had enough remaining to buy new dresses and veils for her sisters and herself.

hand crafted pillows, similar to Afnan’s projects

This Jordan River Foundation program at the Al-Karma Center trains women to produce beautiful, high-quality embroidery crafts which are sold both domestically and around the world. The center also features a professional kitchen (currently under renovations to expand its capacity), used to train women to cook fresh meals for offices throughout the city. Rosie, the passionate senior manager of the project, is quick to note that the entire enterprise is self-financed and requires no additional funds from the Foundation. They are in preparations to pass the entire project to the community, limiting the Foundation’s support to advising, only as needed.

This program has significantly and permanently altered the course of Afnan’s life.  And the design of the training center was made possible by the Jordan River Foundation’s innovative project managers who had the imagination to envision this project, build the capacity, design the financial systems and ultimately create enormous impact for women and their families in Jordan’s urban and rural communities. Director General Valentina Qussisiya, under the leadership of Her Majesty Queen Rania, encourages her staff to participate in the training programs to develop their professional skills and help the organization more effectively achieve its mission of engaging Jordanians to realize their full economic potential. In fact, my wonderful guide for the day, Rim Qutishat, was part of the first class of students at the Institute for Sustainable Development Practice (ISDP).

This is the crux of CGSD’s executive education work in Jordan.

As described in previous posts, and in this video from the field, CGSD has partnered with the Columbia Global Center in Amman (CUMERC) and the Institute for Sustainable Development Practice to help the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation invest in the next generation of development practitioners. These young leaders who design and maintain high impact, innovative and financially sustainable programs like the Al-Karma Center, are at the heart of the training program.

Through this partnership, we offer high caliber courses in sustainable development that vary from cross-cutting fundamentals like project management and monitoring and evaluation to specialized skill-building in thematic areas like business development, health systems and climate policy.  During my recent visit to Amman, I witnessed the participants’ enthusiasm for the courses – they rarely have the opportunity to explore these issues with colleagues from NGOs and government agencies across the country.

While it is easy to get excited about the quality of coursework, and we have great plans in the works for the next round of trainings, the focal point of these trainings remains individuals like Afnan. A vibrant civil society and NGO sector can empower its citizens, and with a bit of creativity and thoughtful design that incorporates local social and environmental challenges, strong project management and monitoring, a project like the Al-Karma Center can be launched and sustained, creating real change for citizens.

Lindsay Siegel is Associate Director and Center Manager for the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development, and recently returned from a visit to Amman, Jordan.

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